While cooking, listen to this: Rich Girl by Hall and Oates


One of my best friends growing up was allergic to strawberries. Like my-throat-will-close-up, inject-me-with-epinephrin-now allergic. Her mom made me learn how to inject an Epipen since the two of us went to camp together and, well, you never know.

Thankfully, I’d never had to use that skill. But last Tuesday, I almost did.

A few people at my office have severe nut allergies. We’re usually pretty good about labeling things and making everyone aware of what has nuts and what doesn’t, but somehow during an early-morning author meeting, some almond milk slipped through.

To make a very long story short, I ended up taking a tour of Lower Manhattan’s medical centers, with an ambulance ride to shuttle between them. My co-worker ended up being fine, thankfully, and it was something we were able to laugh about later in the ER as every walk of New York life filtered in and out.

All of that is to say, you never know where the day might take you. It certainly beat sitting at my desk, and I learn a hell of a lot about allergies (apparently, each time you’re exposed to an allergen your reaction gets worse and worse!). Life in New York is many things, but dull is never one of them.

Ever since that day, which I will forever call the nuttiest day of my life, I’ve been noticing allergens everywhere, but especially on this blog. Rina and I are incredibly fond of tahini (in case you haven’t noticed), and especially love putting it into desserts. I can apologetically say to my friend who’s allergic to sesame that this recipe is not for her, but everyone else, this coffee cake is gonna change your fall.

Looking for something different albeit slightly Jewish for your Thanksgiving? Look no further than this halva crumb coffee cake with a layer of cranberry sandwiched in the middle. Pies are great and all, but why not change it up? Rina attempted to make coffee cake for our Yom Kippur break fast this year and it ended up dry and sad. Well, dear readers, today, Rina gets her redemption. Honestly, I don’t think coffee cake gets enough credit for being the best excuse to have dessert for breakfast. It was a lovely companion to my lonely iced oat latte and passed as an acceptable breakfast, even though the word cake is right there in the title.

So, this week’s lessons? That seemingly useless Epipen training is more important than you think. And that Rina and I love halva and can’t help ourselves.

Oh, and also that nothing can’t be fixed by a big ole slab of cake for breakfast.

xo, Alyssa


Yield: 9 large or 12 small pieces

Prep Time: 20m | Cook Time: 1h 5m | Total Time: 1h 30m, plus cooling

Category: Sweet, Cake, Fall, Thanksgiving

Source: adapted from The New York Times

Special Equipment: stand or hand mixer (paddle attachment if using stand mixer)


cranberry filling:

8 ounces cranberries, washed

½ cup granulated sugar

2 teaspoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons cold water

1-1½ teaspoons cinnamon


⅓ cup dark brown sugar

⅓ cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon salt

½ cup (1 stick) butter, melted

1¾ cups all-purpose flour

6 ounces halva, broken into small bits


⅓ cup sour cream or full-fat Greek yogurt

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 cup cake flour*

½ cup granulated sugar

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt

6 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces

*We didn’t have cake flour, so we replaced two Tablespoons of all-purpose flour with cornstarch. If you use this method, use ¾ cup plus two Tablespoons of all-purpose flour and two Tablespoons cornstarch. Voila!


Prep: preheat your oven to 325F and grease an 8-inch square baking pan with butter or cooking spray.

Make the cranberry filling: add the cornstarch and water in a tiny bowl and stir until combined. In a medium saucepan add the cranberries, sugar, cornstarch mixture and cinnamon. Mix to incorporate evenly, then place on medium heat and bring to a simmer. Cook for five minutes, or until the cranberries just start to break down a bit. Take off the heat and allow to cool somewhere out of the way.

Make the crumbs: in a medium bowl add the brown sugar, white sugar, cinnamon, salt and butter. Whisk to combine. Stir in the flour with a wooden spoon or spatula, followed by the halva bits. It’ll look like dough - you did it right!

Make the batter: in a small bowl stir together the sour cream/Greek yogurt, egg, egg yolk and vanilla. In a large bowl, either the bowl of your stand mixer a mixing bowl you have on hand, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Add the butter and a spoonful of the sour cream/Greek yogurt mixture and mix on medium speed until the flour is *shudder* moistened. Increase the speed and beat for 30 more seconds. Add the remaining mixture in two parts, beating for 20 seconds each time. Scrape the sides of the bowl if necessary. Scoop out about a ½ cup of batter and set both aside.

Assemble! spread the batter minus the ½ cup into your prepared baking pan. Spread the cranberry filling evenly over the batter and top with the remaining batter. It doesn’t have to be even or close to perfect - we’re going to cover it in big-ass crumbs soon anyway. Take the crumb dough and, using your fingers, form the mixture into big crumbs of varying sizes, anywhere from ½- to ¾-inch in size but who’s measuring. Plop all over the top of the cake. Bake for about 45-55 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out free of batter (it might still be a bit *shudder part two* moist from the cranberry filling. Allow to cool completely before serving - this will take 100% of your willpower but will be so worth it, since you’ll have a beautiful layered cake instead of a sad but probably still delicious puddle.

To keep: I think this would keep in a tightly sealed container or plastic bag, or sealed up in its baking pan for a few days, but this cake lasted maybe 48 hours. I’m pretty sure you’ll run into the same “problem.”